When I started calligraphy and lettering, I never knew what to call what it was that I was doing. Was it calligraphy? Or lettering? Or maybe it was typography? So it was helpful to sort out the definitions so that I could actually talk about what I was doing — and so I knew what to google, too!
Calligraphy, lettering and typography are all similar crafts, but at the end of the day, they each refer to something different. So here are some simple definitions that I have found helpful:
Arranging type (think fonts and typefaces). Typography is used by graphic designers to create posters, banners, and other products for print or online use. Within typography, fonts are letters used for consistency and uniformity. Using calligraphy and lettering, you get uniqueness.
Writing letters (based on penmanship, where words are written in one fluid stroke). Traditional calligraphy is done using a pointed pen, and follows strict rules. In contrast, modern calligraphy follows similar rules, but calligraphers bend or break the rules a little to give it a little extra style and edge. In calligraphy, there are different styles, not fonts.
Drawing letters (based on draftsmanship, which involves drawing). Lettering has more in common with illustration, than anything! It takes the concepts from typography and calligraphy (letter shapes, strokes, etc.) but lettering artists illustrate each letter.
Can you tell which photos show typography, calligraphy, or hand lettering?
For a more in-depth explanation, I find this post quite helpful!
I actually do a mix of calligraphy and lettering. Even when I say I am doing calligraphy, strictly speaking, I am actually lettering. And modern calligraphy based on Engrosser’s or Copperplate scripts involve lifting your pen a lot — it’s kind of like putting together puzzle pieces to form letters! And now you know!
What other definitions or words work for you?
How do you describe the difference between calligraphy and lettering?